It's almost time (again)

Kilgore head football coach Mike Wood addresses his team during a 2018 practice. The Bulldogs, and all Texas high school programs, can begin practice Aug. 5. Season tickets to last year's season ticket-holders also go on sale that day, then to the general public on Aug. 12. The annual watermelon fest is at the parking lot of the Mitchell Field House on Aug. 15, and Kilgore hosts Gilmer the following night, Aug. 16, for the first of two preseason scrimmages. The Bulldogs open the season at Nacogdoches on Friday, Aug. 30. (File photo by MITCH LUCAS)

They say necessity is the mother of invention. Sounds right.

But I’ve came up with this column, quaintly dubbed “The Football World,” as a way to touch on several topics in football that you guys might find interesting. I’m not getting rid of “What’s Causing All This;” that’s been a part of fall around here for almost 20 years.

I thought we’d use this space every week to talk about whatever football-related topic is important to you and me: the local high school scene, Kilgore College and their conference, the Dallas Cowboys, the rest of the NFL, major college football, just whatever floats our boat from the world of football, hence the name, the football world (duh, right?).

And I figure if a guy who’s been the centerpiece of the Cowboys’ offense for three seasons suddenly decides he’s not going to training camp – that’s a big deal.

If you haven’t heard, Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott is apparently contemplating a holdout from the team – in other words, if camp is on, he’s not there.

That’s what it looked like as late as Friday, as the rest of the Cowboys reported to Oxnard, Calif., without number 21.

Elliott has been an enigma in his time in the league, a great on-the-field performer, no doubt: 4,048 yards, 28 touchdowns, an average of 4.7 yards a carry, and just 12 fumbles in 40 games played. Off the field, he’s been a head case, with constant legal battles after an assortment of incidents.

Word on the street is that Elliott wants a deal similar – or better, in other words – than the one signed by Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley a year ago. Gurley’s deal is for $57.5 million over four years, an average of $14.3 million a year and $34 million of it guaranteed. The “guaranteed” part means Gurley gets his money no matter what. He’s the NFL’s highest-paid running back.

Unfortunately for the Rams, it seems like the worse-case scenario for “no matter what” has happened. Gurley suffered a knee injury in the run to the Super Bowl last year, and was largely ineffective late in the season, including the big game, a loss to the New England Patriots. Could that be a cautionary tale for the Cowboys?

Elliott is currently on a deal that pays him $24.9 million, an average of $6.2 a year. He’s a year younger (24) than Gurley, and is the 10th-highest-paid running back.

The problem I have with Elliott’s holdout… well, I have a lot of problems with it.

How about the timing, for one – his deal isn’t up until after 2021, and a holdout now, and a new contract, could hurt the team’s negotiations with quarterback Dak Prescott and with wide receiver Amari Cooper, who will both be free agents after this year.

Pro football players are known for staying out of each other’s business, but having Elliott muddy the water when two players the Cowboys need greatly are trying to get new deals can’t help team morale.

Another problem I have with it is the audacity of it all. To say Elliott hasn’t been a choir boy since he arrived in Dallas is like saying Walmart is kind of a mom-and-pop store.

He’s been suspended by the league, he’s had numerous altercations in public, and can’t seem to keep his temper in check. They need him on the field, not sitting in a New York office talking excuse-me’s with commissioner Roger Goodell.

We’ll see how this shakes out. Camp has begun in Oxnard, and the Cowboys expect Elliott to be there. This column was written Friday afternoon. Maybe he’ll report and all this will be an afterthought, the team can wrap up new deals for Prescott and for Cooper, and then focus on the 2019 season (preseason begins Aug. 10 at San Francisco).

Or maybe Zeke will pull something selfish and not show. My advice, not that Elliott cares, would be to take care of business on the field, and the Cowboys will take care of you off of it.

Some scattershooting: don’t forget season tickets for last year’s season ticket-holders go on sale a week from Monday – that’s August 5 – at both Kilgore and Sabine, and oh, by the way, practice begins for just about everyone that day, too. …Kilgore College is ranked 16th in the national “Dirty 30” poll of NJCAA junior college programs. The Rangers went 10-2 a year ago, won the Southwest Junior College Football Conference’s regular-season and playoff titles, and beat Pima (Ariz.) in the Heart of Texas Bowl. …The News Herald’s annual football preview will be a part of the paper on Wednesday, Aug. 28, just two days before most high school programs around Texas kick off their 2019 season. As usual, we’ll have all the information that we can pack in there on Kilgore, Kilgore College, Sabine, West Rusk, Overton and Leverett’s Chapel – and probably some forecasts for high school, junior college, college football and the NFL, too. Looking forward to putting it in your hands.

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